The Heroes of Olympus: The Son of Neptune (Book Review) – Rick Riordan

The second installment in Rick Riordan’s new Greek (and Roman) mythology series: “The Heroes of Olympus,” was released a couple of weeks ago and immediately shot up to the top lists of best sellers. The book’s publishers prepared a 3 million copy first run print, something unprecedented in their history.

“The Heroes of Olympus” picks up where Riordan’s first series: “Percy Jackson & the Olympians” left off. With the first book, “The Lost Hero“, released last Fall, we were introduced to Jason, a demigod with no memories whatsoever about his origins or how he ended up with two other demigods named Piper and Leo. Together, they faced a terrifying quest where they had to save the goddess Hera from having her force absorbed by Mother Earth Gaea who sought to rise, as our regular cast (comprised of Annabeth, Grover and Tyson) searched frantically for a missing Percy Jackson.

As “The Lost Hero” ends, it is revealed to us that while the events of that book were taking place, Percy Jackson was taking part in the events of another demigod camp (illustrated in “The Son of Neptune”) – one where descendants of the Roman gods train. Both camps had been kept separate because Greek and Roman demigods – although they share godly parents – have different forms of those same gods and tend to get into brutal fights around each other.

In “The Son of Neptune,” Percy Jackson also has no recollection of who he is – apart from his name. He is taken to Camp Jupiter where he is immediately perceived as an outsider, with more than one person knowing who he truly is and refusing to tell him. Soon enough, he finds himself on another quest with Frank, a Chinese-descendant boy with a heavy burden and family secret, and Hazel, a girl with a mysterious past: two demigods with secrets they would like to keep hidden. And as the trio travel to Alaska – a land beyond the protection of the gods – they will grow a tight bond that helps them through all the ordeals they will face to finish their quest and come back to Camp Jupiter before it is destroyed by an army sent by Gaea.

The interesting thing about “The Heroes of Olympus” is that it is way more interesting than “Percy Jackson & The Olympians” book for book. While the first two books in the latter series struggle to keep an older reader interested, these ones do so right off the bat, simply because Rick Riordan doesn’t have the need to establish a readership for them anymore. Those who are reading “The Heroes of Olympus” have already read “Percy Jackson & The Olympians” – and stuck with Percy to the end.

Rick Riordan manages to create interesting new characters without you feeling they are overloaded with too much side story. And in books made out to be a light, breezy read, this helps the purpose while keeping those characters interesting enough for you to keep reading. The main fuel for “The Son of Neptune” – what gets the story going the most – is not the necessary need to advance the plot but rather the small revelations you get about those characters, especially Frank and Hazel.

The Son of Neptune” is a must read for whoever has stuck with Percy Jackson and Rick Riordan up to this point. This is definitely not the time to let go. And being an easy read, it won’t take much of your time, and with it alternating between the points of view of its three protagonists, provides you with different approaches to the plot. There’s everything you search for in a Rick Riordan book in this one: fight scenes, comedy, intrigue… and as usual Riordan delivers.

The third book in “The Heroes of Olympus” series, titled “The Mark of Athena” is scheduled for a Fall 2012 release.

Rick Riordan also has another series out – The Kane Chronicles – about Egyptian Mythology. Check out my reviews for The Red Pyramid and The Throne of Fire from that series.

Kane Chronicles: The Throne of Fire (Book Review) – Rick Riordan

The story of Sadie and Carter Kane picks up with The Throne of Fire, three months after the events of The Red Pyramid.

After getting new recruits into their Brooklyn home and starting their training process, Sadie and Carter are met with the realization that their world-saving job is not over yet. Apophis, the Egyptian lord of Chaos, is preparing to break out of his prison come the Spring Equinox, which is five days after the start of the book.  And the only way to possibly prevent Apophis from escaping is to wake up the Sun God: Ra. But in order to wake up Ra, they must find the three parts of the Scroll of Ra, which are scattered in three different locations that they must determine.

At the same time, not all the gods want to see Ra return because that would mean them not getting a shot at the throne anymore. So it is with both internal and external resistance that they must go on their quest, not knowing that it might well be Apophis’ plan for them to bring back an old and fragile and senile Ra so the world can finally sink in Chaos.

The Throne of Fire stays true to the writing style of the book that preceded it: both Carter and Sadie tell parts of the story. At times, when both characters go on separate ways to fulfill the quest, it is needed to keep you informed of the happenings. The intelligent thing about such a style is that it allows the author, Rick Riordian, to create cliffhangers every few chapters with a character and pick up where the other character left off, leaving you in the dark about what might have possibly happened and keeping you hooked to the pages of his book, wanting to know what happens.

And like its predecessor, The Throne of Fire keeps up with using Egyptian mythology to drive the plot, especially with the story of how Ra got exiled in the first place, as well as the importance of that mythology in fulfilling their quest.

However, unlike The Red Pyramid, The Throne of Fire has obvious girl-boy romantic interactions, mostly with Sadie who starts expressing romantic interest in two characters. And Carter has a side plot in the book involving saving his love interest from the first book, a girl named Zia Rashid.

I have one main gripe with The Throne of Fire, which is a serious lack of understanding (and obviously no will to research) of the Arabic language. At some point, it is revealed that the location of Zia Rashid is “Al Ahmar Makhan.” Not only is this is a literal translation of “The Red Place” but it is also the incorrect way to spell “Makhan” and the incorrect way to write the expression. It doesn’t stop here. According to the author, “makhan” means red and “al ahmar” means sand, which for anyone familiar with Arabic knows it’s almost the opposite and “al ahmar” means red, not sand.

However, with that aside, The Throne of Fire remains an enjoyable book, although it’s quite shorter than its predecessor. I can’t wait for the final installment in the Kane Chronicles, scheduled for a May 2012 release.

Kane Chronicles: The Red Pyramid (Book Review) – Rick Riordan

Rick Riordan is the author behind the Percy Jackson book series, which I’ve read and enjoyed.
While the Percy Jackson books are about Greek mythology, Riordan, a history teacher, admitted that if there’s a culture that tops the Greek one in class discussions, it’s the Egyptian ancient culture (obviously not the current one).

And so, it is from that basis that he wrote his second book series (there’s also a third one being a continuation of the Percy Jackson series and titled: The Heroes of Olympus): The Kane Chronicles.

The first book of the series is titled The Red Pyramid and it follows the lives of Sadie and Carter Kane, two siblings, who lose their mother to mysterious causes and are forced to live apart for six years: Carter globe-trotting with his Egyptologist father and Sadie with her grandparents, in London.

However, on Christmas eve, as Carter and his father Julius show up in London for their annual visit of Sadie, a sense of alarm is in the air but the kids do not know the cause. And when their dad takes them to the British Museum to examine the Rosetta Stone and ultimately destroying it, it is revealed that their dad is not a regular human. He can do magic. And soon enough, it is revealed that they are both descended from powerful Royal Egyptian bloodlines, making them both Magicians and holding the blood of the Pharaohs.

However, with power comes persecution – especially when both Sadie and Carter are truly clueless about the power they have. And when both start to have visions that foretell the Egyptian God Set preparing the destruction of North America, they must do all they can to stop him.

The interesting thing about Riordan’s books is that, even though they might be childish at times, they still hold very interesting material for you to read and it offers that material in a rather entertaining context. In this case, I am personally much more interested in Egyptology than I am with Greek mythology so I was positively entertained when the author used the stories of Egyptian gods to advance his plot.

The characters jump around many parts of the world using portals. They go from London to New York to Cairo to Paris to Memphis to Phoenix and Washington. Mix all of that in a rather tightly-packed book and you’re offered with a story that doesn’t let down. There’s always something happening.

Moreover, the writing style adopted by Riordan for this book is interesting. The book starts by saying that he received the text as a recording from both Sadie and Carter and that the book is more or less the transcript.
The book itself can be separated into two major parts that intertwine: the part told by Sadie and the part told by Carter, both of which are subtly quite different since both characters have different interests.

All in all, The Red Pyramid, albeit being a little hard to get into at first, is a very entertaining book for anyone who’s read the Percy Jackson books and liked them. It is the first book of the Kane Chronicles trilogy.

Review of book two: The Throne of Fire coming up tomorrow.